Wednesday, September 30, 2009

CAREER FAIR CONNECTS VETERANS TO JOB OPPORTUNITIES

A career fair for veterans held in San Francisco today hosted a steady stream of attendees who reported cautious optimism, despite months-long job searches. San Francisco resident Diego Rangel repaired helicopters in Germany during the Carter administration and picked up considerable cooking skills in the Army reserves. "I'm optimistic about staying in the hospitality industry," he said. However, he was also considering an apprenticeship as an electrician. More than 30 schools, agencies and potential employers participated in the fair, which debuted last year. Every employer present, from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to the San Francisco Police Department, has actual job openings. More>
The CSU Board of Trustees proposed a plan to implement Smart Grid technology in 934 buildings on all 23 CSU campuses using a $77.5 million federal grant. The US Department of Energy will vote on the proposal on Nov. 3. The CSU has multiple Energy IQ partners for this project including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Energy Network Operations Center, the California public and private utilities and Galvin Power, which are all leading companies in the energy industry. More>

Sanford lab director to retire

The director of the Sanford Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory at Homestake, Jose Alonso, has announced his retirement, effective Oct. 15. A release from the Lead (LEED)-based lab says Alonso will continue as laboratory director emeritus and consult on science and education programs. Alonso became the lab's first director in October 2007. He brought more than 40 years experience in physics research and managing large experiments to the Sanford Lab post. Alonso had retired in 2002 after more than 30 years at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in the Rapid City Journal.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

U of Tennessee to Establish Data Analysis Center

The University of Tennessee (UT) will receive $10 million from the National Science Foundation over four years to establish a new, state-of-the-art visualization and data analysis center aimed at interpreting the massive amounts of data produced by today's most powerful supercomputers. The TeraGrid eXtreme Digital Resources for Science and Engineering (XD) award will be used to fund UT's Center for Remote Data Analysis and Visualization (RDAV), a partnership between UT, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Wisconsin, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). More>

A story on this topic also appeared in Vizworld.

Superheavy Element 114 Finally Recreated

By firing calcium isotopes into a plutonium target inside a particle accelerator, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have finally confirmed the Russian discovery of the superheavy element 114. It wasn’t easy. It took more than a week of running the experiment to generate a measly two atoms of the stuff, which they reported in Physical Review Letters last week. It’s basic science at the outer limits of matter. “We’re learning the limits of nuclei,” said Ken Gregorich, a nuclear physicist at LBL. “How many protons can you pack into a nucleus before it falls apart?” More>

A story on this topic also appeared in UPI, Fox News, Popular Science and Scientific Computing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The glamorous life of Web 2.0 genetics


In the autumn of 2007, Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki launched the era of pop genetics by going live with 23andme, their DNA testing startup. Two years ago, the commercialization of DNA by 23andme and others seemed to stun geneticists and the medical research community, despite years of scientists downloading genetic discoveries on public databases. Ethicists and the American Civil Liberties Union fretted about the privacy questions inherent in companies holding this data. "This information by itself gives a very incomplete picture about a person's health," says Steven Brenner, with Berkeley Lab's Physical Biosciences Division. "I believe that it will be useful, but there is a danger that people might misinterpret it or take it more seriously than they should at this stage of the science." Brenner suspects that there will be a division of genetic testing in the future between DNA that is, in his view, medical and the more recreational uses, like genetic information about ancestry. "My sense is that people will want information about disease in a medical setting," he says. More>

Unveiled:The First Full 3-D Model of a Star Going Supernova

Good news for astrophysicists and fans of massive thermonuclear explosions alike: a team of mathematicians at the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, working alongside two astrophysicists from Stony Brook University and U.C. Santa Cruz, have modeled the hours leading up to a Type Ia supernova, capturing the gritty details of the cataclysmic death of a white dwarf star for the first time. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in SpaceRef.com.

Scientists confirm new element

Ten years after Russian scientists first reported the discovery of element 114, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have confirmed its existence. However, the team found that the new element did not lie on the so-called island of stability, the group of super-heavy elements that are expected to survive for more than a fraction of a second. To produce the element, the team at Berkeley, headed by Heino Nitsche and Ken Gregorich, used a particle accelerator to fire ions of calcium-48 at a target of plutonium-242 for eight days almost continuously. The resulting isotopes of element 114 lasted for a half a second or less before decaying. More>

Stories on this topic also appeared in Press Trust of India and Ethiopian Review.

As We See It: Keep UC accessible

What's frustrating is that state general fund support for UC totals "only" $3.3 billion for 2008-09, out of total operating revenues of $19.6 billion. Much of the overall budget, however, goes for sponsored research, teaching hospitals, extension classes, housing and dining services and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, among other programs. Only $5.6 billion, or 28 percent, goes to UC's core instructional programs and the services, such as faculty salaries, that support them. More>

Experts point way to greener datacentres

Datacentres account for 1.5 per cent of US energy consumption, a figure expected to double by 2013 unless action is taken. Most is used by old-style business datacentres which waste as much power on cooling as they use to drive their servers. Some wastage is due to servers running at full power even when they are not being fully used despite the fact that recent chips from Intel and AMD can power down as the compute load drops. In most datacentres these power-saving features are switched off, said Kenneth Brill, executive director of the Uptime Institute. And this at a time when power costs are soaring. Cloud computing centres are inherently more energy efficient because their servers are more intensively used. In raw economic terms the benefits of the cloud are compelling, whatever other issues there might be, said Jonathan Koomey, an energy specialist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

The Ups and Downs of Global Warming

According to the vast majority of climate scientists, the planet is heating up1. Scientists have concluded that this appears to be the result of increased human emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, which trap heat near the surface of Earth. However, some information sources -- blogs, websites, media articles and other voices -- highlight that the planet has been cooling since a peak in global temperature in 1998. This cooling is only part of the picture, according to a recent study that has looked at the world's temperature record over the past century or more. In their recently published research paper2 entitled "Is the climate warming or cooling?", David Easterling of the U.S. National Climate Data Center and Michael Wehner of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory show that naturally occurring periods of no warming or even slight cooling can easily be part of a longer-term pattern of global warming. More>

Friday, September 25, 2009

Putting a strain on nanowires could yield colossal results

Structural irregularities in correlated electron materials a phenomenon known as "phase inhomogeneity" could be engineered at the sub-micron scale to achieve such desired properties as colossal magnetoresistance. In finally answering an elusive scientific question, researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have shown that the selective placement of strain can alter the electronic phase and its spatial arrangement in correlated electron materials. More>

U.S.-Korean Energy Development Created

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Univ. of Incheon in South Korea have entered into a joint development agreement to explore future-generation approaches to environmentally friendly energy. This announcement was made at a meeting between George Smoot, 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics laureate at the Berkeley Lab. LBNL and UI have signed a Memorandum of Understanding and agreed to examine the potential for establishing a research institution in the Songdo cluster of global campuses of Northeast Asian universities. The partners anticipate that the research institution will span several areas-–environmental-friendly energy research, synthetic biology, cosmology, and accelerators. More>

Lawrence Berkeley scientists confirm element 114 finding

Ten years after Russian scientists first reported it, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have confirmed the existence of element 114, the heaviest element ever seen in more than one laboratory. To their disappointment, however, the team found that the new element did not lie on the so-called Island of Stability, the group of super-heavy elements that are expected to survive for more than a few milliseconds. Such elements might have unexpected new uses. More>

A story on topic also appeared in San Francisco Times, RT and India Business Blog.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meet Obama's Head Energy Research Gambler

Last week, the White House nominated Arun Majumdar to lead ARPA-E, the risk-taking blue-sky energy research shop at the Department of Energy. Majumdar is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a materials scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. At the new agency, Majumdar will face a myriad of challenges: shaping the organization's priorities in a time when thousands of scientists are delving into energy research areas and clamoring for money, defining its balance between applied and basic research, and deciding just how "blue-sky" he wants DOE to be going with the new concept. More>

Businesses Find New Ways to Save Energy, Cost in Data Centers

Whether it’s a novel technique to cool data centers like the one tested by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, installation of new hardware chosen by Skyservice Airlines, or leveraging rebates through utilities like PG&E, businesses are looking at a variety of ways to reduce the cost of cooling their data centers as well as saving energy. More>

The First Full 3-D Model of a Star Going Supernova

Good news for astrophysicists and fans of massive thermonuclear explosions alike: a team of mathematicians at the DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, working alongside two astrophysicists from Stony Brook University and U.C. Santa Cruz, have modeled the hours leading up to a Type Ia supernova, capturing the gritty details of the cataclysmic death of a white dwarf star for the first time. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in UPI, Innovations Report and Zikkir.

Obama Nominates New ‘Green Czar’ from Berkeley Labs

Arun Majumdar, who currently heads a project at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs to help India reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to head the newly-created Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy at the Department of Energy. The White House announced Majumdar’s nomination — which requires Senate confirmation — on Sept. 18. The IIT-Bombay graduate is not allowed to comment on the nomination until he is confirmed. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in EE Times and India Journal.

Superheavy element 114 confirmed by Berkeley Lab nuclear scientists

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have been able to confirm the production of the superheavy element 114, ten years after a group in Russia, at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, first claimed to have made it. The search for 114 has long been a key part of the quest for nuclear science's hoped-for Island of Stability. More>

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Computer Code Gives Astrophysicists First Full Simulation Of Star's Final Hours

The precise conditions inside a white dwarf star in the hours leading up to its explosive end as a Type Ia supernova are one of the mysteries confronting astrophysicists studying these massive stellar explosions. But now, a team of researchers, composed of three applied mathematicians at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and two astrophysicists, has created the first full-star simulation of the hours preceding the largest thermonuclear explosions in the universe. More>

This story also appeared in the examiner.

University of Incheon/Berkeley Lab joint research on environmental-friendly energy

The U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, represented by George Smoot of the Physics Division, has signed an agreement with representatives of South Korea's University of Incheon to explore the potential for joint scientific research in energy, biology, accelerators, cosmology, and space. The agreement, which was signed at 10:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday, September 23, in Incheon, Republic of Korea (6:30 p.m. Tuesday evening, September 22, Pacific Daylight Time), calls for investigation of possible collaborations in which the University of Incheon would provide facilities and Berkeley Lab would provide research programs. More>

IT administrators at Lawrence Berkeley see "no reason" to move to Microsoft's new operating system.

In a blow to Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), the U.S. Department of Energy's oldest physics lab has decided not to upgrade its Windows XP computers to the new Windows 7 operating system. IT personnel at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory "see no reason to upgrade an XP system to Windows 7," according to lab's online IT bulletin. More>

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

H.G. WELLS: 9 Predictions That Have, And Haven't, Come True

The time machine was one of many future technologies that H.G. Wells popularized in his 20 novels and dozens of short stories. Although such a device isn't one of Wells's fancies that has since come to fruition, a time machine is within the realm of possibility, said Richard Muller, a Berkeley Lab physicist. "There are many physicists who will tell you it is proven impossible, but that is not the case," Muller said. "We just haven't figured out how to do it." More>

The Great Internet Buildout Continues

One of the good aspects of returning from a long trip is that you’re forced to catch up on a lot of stuff, which often entails reading emails, web sites and my favorite blogs in a sequential manner. And when you do that, you can sometimes pick up unlikely patterns that help connect the dots. “We have entered this new era where essentially everything is on all the time,” Alan Meier, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, recently told The New York Times. More>

Gunning For Free Electron Lasers

The U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory are collaborating to help define the most critical new technologies for the next generation of free electron lasers (FELs). In response to their joint proposal, DOE's Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) has made a $1.8M grant to Berkeley Lab and a similar grant to SLAC, as part of a newly funded national program in detector and accelerator research and development. More>

Photoswitches Shed Light On Spontaneous Free Swimming In Zebrafish


Through targeted insertion of light-sensitive switches into these cells in awake zebrafish larvae, University of California, Berkeley, and UC San Francisco scientists have found that these mysterious cells trigger burst swimming – the periodic tail twitching typical of larvae. More>

Berkeley Lab Science at the Theater: Hope or Hype? What’s next for biofuels?

From the sun to your gas tank: A new breed of biofuels may help solve the global energy challenge and reduce the impact of fossil fuels on global warming. KTVU Channel 2 health and science editor John Fowler will moderate a panel of three Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists who are developing ways to convert the solar energy stored in plants into liquid fuels. More>

Supercomputer Simulation Reveals Star's Final Hours

The precise conditions inside a white dwarf star in the hours leading up to its explosive end as a Type Ia supernova are one of the mysteries confronting astrophysicists studying these massive stellar explosions. But now, a team of researchers, composed of three applied mathematicians at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and two astrophysicists, has created the first full-star simulation of the hours preceding the largest thermonuclear explosions in the universe. More>

Monday, September 21, 2009

Strain engineering aims for room-temp superconducting

Strain-correlated electron materials can be conductors, semiconductors or insulators depending on how much strain is engineered into their structure. As a new type of transition-metal oxide, correlated electron materials could allow the selective placement of strain to alter the spatial arrangement of its crystalline lattice, according to researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More>

Plugged-In Age Feeds a Hunger for Electricity

Electricity use from power-hungry gadgets is rising fast all over the world. The fancy new flat-panel televisions everyone has been buying in recent years have turned out to be bigger power hogs than some refrigerators. “We have entered this new era where essentially everything is on all the time,” said Alan Meier, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a leading expert on energy efficiency. More>

Heinz Family Honor Sustainable Farmer with $100,000 Award

Joel Salatin, farmer, author and lecturer, is being honored with a $100,000 Heinz Award for creating alternative, environmentally friendly farming techniques and helping propel a movement toward local, sustainable agriculture that has been replicated by family farms around the country. Additional recipients of the 15th annual Heinz Awards, which this year focus singularly on the environment, include Ashok Gadgil, Ph.D., 58, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.), for his work as an inventor and humanitarian. More>

High-risk energy research agency gets a leader

Energy-efficiency researcher Arun Majumdar will, if confirmed by the US Senate, take the reins of the controversial new federal agency tasked with coming up with brilliant new insights into energy independence. Congress allocated money to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) earlier this year in hopes of replicating the success of the Pentagon's own high-risk, high-return research agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Pretty much everyone in government wants a DARPA spin-off these days; there's an intelligence version too, IARPA, and some people want NASA to have one too. More>

Stories on this topic also appeared in the San Francisco Business Times, Azonano.com, indiaserver.com,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Algae as Fuel of the Future Faces Great Expectations -- and Obstacles

Sapphire Energy wants to turn algae into fuel for cars, trucks, jets and potentially far more. It could be years, however, before it is clear whether algae can meet expectations. The ability to get research out of the lab and into the marketplace is about a decade away. Researchers and entrepreneurs are working to speed that process. SD-CAB this week applied for a Department of Energy grant that would provide $50 million over three years. In filing the submission, SD-CAB teamed with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and numerous other institutions. More>

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The California Experiment

The epicenter of California’s energy revolution might justifiably be considered a roomy, dimly lit office in the bunker-like Energy Commission building in downtown Sacramento. There, behind a long conference table, surrounded by an untouched cup of chili and plates of apples, bananas, grapes, and tomatoes, sits Art Rosenfeld. In 1973, Rosenfeld was working as a particle physicist at Berkeley Lab. That September, the state legislature passed a bill creating a commission to manage California’s energy policy. Rosenfeld shifted his focus toward energy efficiency, organizing a working group (which eventually became the Center for Building Science) at the laboratory. “I thought,” he told me dryly, “we had better do such things as learning how to turn out the lights.” More>

Heinz Awards Go to Environmental Champions

Each year the Heinz Awards go to 10 headliners in a wide variety of disciplines — the arts and humanities, public policy, science and economics — ranging from writers like Dave Eggers to doctors like Paul Farmer. "We wanted to identify people who were full of promise," says Teresa Heinz, who created the awards after her then husband, Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz, died in a helicopter crash in 1991. "We wanted to continue John's work." Scientists make up the bulk of the other award winners: Ashok Gadgil, an environmental engineer at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, won for inventing simple, inexpensive water-purification systems and stoves for use in the developing world. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in Environmental Protection.

Geothermal power quakes find defenders

Geothermal plants work by pumping water into hot rocks several kilometres down, forcing small cracks in the rock to expand. Steam escapes through the cracks to the surface, where it drives a turbine, producing clean energy. But critics say the process increases the risk of earthquakes. Even the worst geothermal earthquakes have failed to topple a building or kill a human, says Ernest Majer, a seismologist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, pointing out that geothermal power isn't the only industry that triggers earthquakes. More>

NIH funds grantees focusing on epigenomics of human health and disease

The National Institutes of Health announced today that it will fund 22 grants on genome-wide studies of how epigenetic changes -- chemical modifications to genes that result from diet, aging, stress, or environmental exposures -- define and contribute to specific human diseases and biological processes. Awardees include Terumi Kohwi-Shigematsu, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif., Determinants for Genome-Wide Epigenomics in Metastatic Breast Cancer. More>

ESnet Honored as One of Top 10 Government IT Innovators

Once a year, InformationWeek magazine honors the most innovative players in the field of information technology, including the top 10 government agency innovators. And on Sept. 14, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) was recognized as a member of this select group for its work helping thousands of researchers worldwide manage the massive amounts of scientific data stemming from the application of petascale supercomputers and high-precision instruments to cutting-edge disciplines such as climate science, high energy physics, astrophysics and genomics. More>

With A Flash Of Light, A Neuron's Function Is Revealed

There’s a new way to explore biology’s secrets. With a flash of light, scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley zeroed in on the type of neural cell that controls swimming in larval zebrafish. More>

This story was also posted on EurekAlert and the UC Berkeley News Center.

University helps lead way to better lithium batteries

Binghamton University and M. Stanley Whittingham are at the forefront of the movement seeking new ways to design the next generation of lithium-ion batteries. The University is now serving as an associate director of the Northeastern Chemical Energy Storage Center (NECESC), an energy frontier research center that received designation and funding from the Department of Energy during the summer. The team also features experts from schools such as MIT, Michigan and University of California-San Diego. Rutgers is the second associate director and Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California are involved, as well. More>

Physicist on finale of '5th Grader'

The smartest contestant in ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 5th GRADER? history takes the podium on the season finale airing Friday, Sept. 18 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. George F. Smoot is an astrophysicist and cosmologist whose work helped confirm the Big Bang Theory. A physics professor with the University of California, Berkeley and a Senior Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Smoot won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 and was also awarded the Albert Einstein Medal in 2003. More>

A story on this also appeared in the Futon Critic.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Home solar prices falling, even as rebates shrink

Even as a state rebate is shrinking, the price of residential solar power is dropping, thanks to lower installation costs and a glut in the supply of key components. That's putting it in reach of more people and prompting solar advocates to say the day is coming when rebates and tax credits won't be needed to spur the growth of the renewable energy industry.On average, a home solar power system cost about $8 a watt last year in California, according to researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. That figure has dropped about 50 cents a watt in the past year, according to Vote Solar's analysis of state statistics. Cinnamon said he believes it will fall to $7.25 a watt this year. More>

Putting-A-Strain-On-Nanowire-Could-Yield-Colossal-Results/

In finally answering an elusive scientific question, researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have shown that the selective placement of strain can alter the electronic phase and its spatial arrangement in correlated electron materials. This unique class of materials is commanding much attention now because they can display properties such as colossal magnetoresistance and high-temperature superconductivity, which are highly coveted by the high-tech industry. More>

This story also appeared in Nanotechnology Now.

Climate researcher among Heinz Award winners

In years past, the prize was awarded for notable contributions in the arts and humanities; the environment; the human condition; public policy; and technology; the economy; and employment. However, this year, the award focuses solely on the environment. It comes with a $100,000 individual prize. Recipients included Ashok Gadgil, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a group leader at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, was recognized for his work as a researcher, inventor and humanitarian. He is known for creating inventions to solve fundamental problems in developing countries, such as an inexpensive water purification system and an improved cook stove for use in the conflicted Darfur region of Sudan. More>

A story on this topic also appeared in USA Today, the Sacramento Bee, Examiner, Architectural Record, and UC Berkeley News Center.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pesticide sought by Calif. growers; Foes want to stop known carcinogen

A highly potent chemical capable of clearing farmland of pests, disease and weeds is attracting fierce opposition from environmental groups and some scientists in California -- even as growers look to it as a crucial replacement for a banned fumigant. Opponents say that while they understand the need for farmers to remain productive, the risk of using methyl iodide is too great. "We know that even in small amounts it can be very toxic," said Robert Bergman, a Berkeley Lab chemist and member of the National Academy of Sciences. "And in agriculture, you are talking about hundreds of pounds being put into the ground and covered with a tarp." More>
The UC Board of Regents will hold two meetings Wednesday, Sept. 16, on the controversial plans to build a new UC Berkeley lab to house research on turning plants into fuel for planes, trains and automobiles. The first session of the board’s Committee on Grounds and Buildings meets behind closed doors as members decide what to do about a pending court case that challenges their approval of a key environmental document needed to build the lab on a sensitive site above Strawberry Canyon at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). The second session, an open meeting, is slated to begin 25 minutes after the start of the first and would amend financing plans for the same lab, this time at a new site in downtown Berkeley. The Helios Energy Research Facility, now planned for the northeast corner of the site currently occupied by the vacant California Department of Health Services building north of Berkeley Way between Oxford Street and Shattuck Avenue, will house public and private labs conducting research funded by a $500 million grant from British oil giant BP, plc. More>

Metamaterials Could Mimic Black Holes, Disrupted Planetary Orbits

Tiny special materials may mimic astronomical events, including the trapping of light in black holes and the disruption of planetary orbits, a new report in the September Nature Physics proposes. The shape and design of such materials may allow scientists to do previously impossible experiments by replicating aspects of the heavens at the laboratory bench. “Astrophysicists build a telescope and watch the sky, and if they’re lucky, in their lives, they’ll see one or two events,” says study coauthor Xiang Zhang, of the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “Now you don’t have to wait 100 years to observe interesting phenomena. Now we can study it in a tabletop experiment.” More>

Lawrence Berkeley Lab gets $1.8M for government energy efficiency

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will help the federal government save energy with expert help paid for by $1.8 million in stimulus funding. The grants — most of them from the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program — will be spent on advice and assistance to various federal agencies about how to use energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning. More>

Novel Way to Cool Data Centers Passes First Test

A team of engineers led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has successfully tested a novel system that they say could greatly improve the efficiency of data center cooling. It's an important area for data center operators, who are struggling with the escalating costs of cooling increasingly powerful server equipment. Some facilities have been unable to add new equipment because they have reached the limit of their power and cooling capacity. More>

Heavy Metal Discoveries

Two projects are currently underway that hope to use naturally occurring bacteria and plants to accomplish in situ remediation of heavy metal contaminated land and water. Particular emphasis is placed on clean up of abandoned uranium mines. Judy Wall, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, in partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., are looking at eventually using sulfate reducing bacteria to reduce toxic metals to inert substances. Wall and her colleagues are working with Desulfovibrio vulgaris bacterium. More>